Eligible Workers in British Columbia Entitled to Five Days of Paid Sick Leave Beginning January 1, 2022

On November 24, 2021, British Columbia announced that beginning January 1, 2022, workers covered by the province’s Employment Standards Act (ESA), including part-time, temporary or casual workers, will be eligible to take up to five days of paid leave per year for any personal illness or injury (Paid Sick Leave), provided they have worked with their employer for at least 90 days. Employers must pay their employees their regular wages for these days, which do not have to be taken consecutively.

This announcement comes after British Columbia’s Bill 13, Employment Standards Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021, received Royal Assent in May 2021, amending the ESA to authorize the government to introduce paid leave for personal illness or injury effective January 1, 2022, and after the number of days that would be made available was determined following consultation with the province’s workers and employers.

Paid Sick Leave becomes available immediately after availability of the three-day paid COVID-19-related sick leave, originally made available in May 2021, ends on December 31, 2021, discussed in greater detail below. While employers are entitled to apply through the Employer Reimbursement Program to be reimbursed for COVID-19-related paid sick leave wages paid to an employee (up to $200 a day per employee for up to three days), employers will have no reimbursement opportunity in respect of Paid Sick Leave.

Paid Sick Leave is in addition to the existing three unpaid personal illness or injury days that employees covered by BC’s ESA are entitled to each year, provided they have been employed for at least 90 days. Accordingly, commencing January 1, 2022, eligible employees in the province will be entitled to up to eight personal illness or injury leave days per year, five paid and three unpaid.

If an employer is unionized and its collective agreement (CA) does not “meet or exceed” Paid Sick Leave, this requirement will be deemed to be incorporated into the CA and the total number of days will be brought up to the Paid Sick Leave standard.

Paid Sick Leave is not available to employees who are employed by federally regulated employers, self-employed workers or independent contractors, or employees in professions and occupations that are excluded from the ESA.

COVID-related Leaves Repealed from Canada Labour Code

On November 20, 2021, two job-protected, COVID-related unpaid leaves that were temporarily established for employees working in federally regulated workplaces were repealed from the Canada Labour Code (CLC). The repealed leaves were:

  • a leave of up to four weeks that could be taken as many times as necessary if the employee was in one of three specified situations; and
  • a leave of up to 42 weeks that could be taken if the employee was unable to work because they must care for a child under 12 for specified reasons, or provide care to a family member who required supervised care for specified reasons.

Legislation Introduced that Would Reintroduce COVID-19 Leaves of Absence

On November 24, 2021, the federal government introduced Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19 (Bill C-2) for First Reading.

If passed, Bill C-2 would, among other things, reintroduce the COVID-19 leaves of absence that were repealed from the CLC on November 20, 2021, as amended. Bill C-2 would provide a COVID-19 leave of absence of:

  • up to six weeks (or another number of weeks fixed by regulation) if the employee is unable to work because:
    • they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19;
    • they have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19; or
    • they have isolated themselves on the advice of their employer, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • up to 44 weeks (or such other number of weeks fixed by regulation) if the employee is unable to work because, for certain reasons relating to COVID-19, they must care for a child who is under the age of 12 or a family member who requires supervised care.

Legislation Introduced to Provide 10 Days of Paid Sick Leave to Workers in the Federally-regulated Private Sector

On November 26, 2021, the federal government announced that it had introduced Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code (Bill C-3) for First Reading. If it is passed as law in its current form after it makes its way through the legislative process, Bill C-3 will amend the CLC to provide 10 days of paid sick leave per year to workers in the federally regulated private sector.

Bottom Line for Employers

Employers in British Columbia are encouraged to review the paid sick leave they currently offer, if any, to their employees, and prepare for any adjustments they may need to make in preparation for their new obligations that commence on the first day of 2022. At the same time, federally-regulated employers should take note of the repeal of the two COVID-related unpaid leaves, and watch for whether Bill C-2 and Bill C-3 become law since, if enacted, they will create significant obligations. We will follow Bill C-2 and Bill C-3 as they move through the legislative process and provide an update when appropriate.